Tuesday night, after the Capitals drifted deeper into this ugly stretch of hockey, losing their sixth straight and now 13 of the last 17, veteran forward Brooks Laich said he wants to see his teammates do more to work out of this slump.
“Just playing with a little more hustle, a little more grit, a little more will to win. If you’re not winning, there’s a reason you’re not winning,” Laich said. “When you win, it’s because you deserve to win generally. And if you’re not winning, do something extra.”
This latest defeat, a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators, left the Capitals searching for offense. They have only seven goals in the last six games and have scored over one goal in any single contest just once in that span. For Laich, that something extra comes from what he calls “heavy” hockey, which is better explained as upping the physicality of their game in smart ways.
“I think we’re too much on the outside and I don’t think consistently that we’re going from the outside, fighting through a check or leaning on a guy and trying to get to an area around the net where we can get chance,” Laich said. “Some guys are trying, but when you’re not scoring, we need to be better at doing that. And maybe they hook you, maybe they trip you, maybe they panic for a second and grab you. Worst case scenario, they don’t know where the puck is, they’re turning and facing their net and we should have some sort of chance to maybe even get the puck back and start a cycle.”
While the Capitals had numerous chances – 21 at even strength, according to the live statistics the coaching staff keeps, according to Coach Adam Oates – they didn’t necessarily have sustained waves of pressure during which one shot turned into two or three. Often, Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson would make the save and freeze the puck for a faceoff, allowing his teammates to reset.
Laich said the Capitals’ sizable forwards like himself, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward need to set that tone. But in order for the strategy to be successful the players on the ice must work as a five-man unit to make smart decisions to keep plays and possession alive.
The 30-year-old forward stressed that even as Washington’s situation becomes more bleak, there isn’t a need for a motivational speech or shouting match in the dressing room.
“If somebody wants to stand up and yell, where was that two hours ago [during the game]? Now all of a sudden you’re proving you’re into the hockey game? The hockey game’s over,” Laich said. “Words can be hollow, actions aren’t. Actions on the ice, you prove it to your hockey team that you’re willing to play and willing to do things right to win. That’s what people follow.
“Well done is better than well said. If you want to talk about it, go show it on the ice. The locker room, nobody’s yelling and screaming in here. We have to prove it to our teammates, prove it to yourself, the organization. We have to be better as players. It starts with our leaders and everybody else follows.”